July 3 and July 4 are major dates for all minor league baseball teams.
For the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston, it is tonight that club officials hope is another marquee summer event in eastern North Carolina. Before traveling to play the Salem Red Sox on Thursday afternoon on the actual holiday, the Wood Ducks host the Winston-Salem Dash tonight at 7.
A fireworks show will highlight the team’s annual Independence Day celebration at Grainger Stadium.
“July 3, each of our years, has kind of been our biggest game of the year and we are excited about that,” team vice president Wade Howell said during a phone interview last week. “Postgame fireworks kind of lead into July 4 and everybody being off work the next day. A lot of people have plans on July 4, so actually playing on the 3rd really works out good for us here.”
The Woodies, who are the advanced Class-A affiliate for the Texas Rangers of Major League Baseball, are in their third summer of pro baseball in Kinston. The Wood Ducks, who are one of the minor league teams owned by their parent club, cruised to a Carolina League Southern Division first-half championship with a 50-20 record.
The second half of the Carolina League season began June 20.
After tonight’s game and playing a road series at Salem and Myrtle Beach, another homestand in Kinston will feature Mother Earth Fridays on July 12 and then a unique promotion of Christmas in July on July 13 for a 6 p.m. contest against Winston-Salem.
“We did that last year and people really loved it, so we are bringing that back and sticking with it,” Howell said of Christmas in July. “We’ll do a snow globe giveaway for the first 1,000 fans.”
In addition to tonight’s game and the July 12-14 weekend, Down East also will have a late-July, six-game homestand. Weekend games are July 26-28.
“June was a little weird with the least amount of (home) games we’ll have and we were just on seven-game road trips around the All-Star break, so we picked up a lot of games in July and August to kind of make up for June being down,” Howell said. “It all evens out.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.